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Herbert MacNair (1868 - 1955)

Lot 22: James Herbert MacNair (1868-1955)


June 14, 2005
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


signed 'HERBERT M CNAIR' (lower right)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour heightened with gold on panel
18 1/8 x 17 1/2 in. (46.3 x 44.5 cm.)

Artist or Maker

James Herbert MacNair (1868-1955)


London, The Fine Art Society, Spring '90, 1990, no. 43.


Charles MacDonald, brother-in-law of the artist and by descent to the vendor at the time of the Fine Art Society exhibition in 1990.


MacNair trained alongside Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the Glasgow School of Art between 1884 and 1894 where he met the MacDonald sisters. Herbert married Frances (see lots 20 and 21) in 1899 and Charles married Margaret in 1900. The group became known as 'The Four', collaborating on a number of designs, many of which were reproduced in The Studio magazine.

As Mackintosh's work grew further away from The Four's distinctive style, MacNair's watercolours drew closer to the mysticism and femininity of the MacDonald sister's art, as can be seen in the present watercolour. He became increasingly involved in Celtic history and mythology and this interest pervades throughout the rest of his career.

MacNair exhibited designs in the Vienna Secession of 1900 and in 1902 he exhibited The Writing Room to great acclaim at the Expozizione Internazionale D'Arte Decorativa Moderna in Turin. During this time he also taught at the Liverpool University in the School of Applied Art, but this ended in 1905 when the school closed and he returned to Glasgow exhibiting one last time with his wife in London in 1911. His wife's death in 1921 left Macnair a broken man and he undertook no further work until his death in 1955.

There has been increasing interest in MacNair's work in recent years, another watercolour, The Gift of Doves, was sold in these Rooms on 1 May 1997, lot 250 (£24,000).

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

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Important British Art

June 14, 2005, 12:00 AM EST

London, United Kingdom